Honesty Part 3 – The First Few Days of a Brand New Advertising Agency

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On Valentine’s Day 2009, Saturday February 14 at 17:01, I sent out the following tweet to the world: “I’ve now left the agency (VML). Very exciting things in the making”. The agency was Verymuchlogo McCann, and next month this tweet is will be exactly 2 years old. If you look at the timeline of Honesty you see a few key moments in it’s 2-year history, and this is undoubtedly one och those.

Leaving Verymuchlogo McCann was a bit of a jolt for me since it happened so abruptly, but judging from my Twitter history (Twistory is such an awesome plugin btw) I didn’t take a lot of time to mourn the loss. I knew that I only had three days the following week to get meetings in since I had my throat surgery scheduled for the Thursday of that week (February 19 2009).

During these three days that followed I managed to set and execute meetings with 2 potential clients (optimistically speaking I should admit), 1 PR-person, 2 potential Honesty partners (I won’t tell you who, but not the ones who ended up joining the agency) and one accountant to help me set up the company. I also had a slightly less glamourous meeting with my father from whom I borrowed the 100 000 kronors neccessary to legally found the company Honesty AB. Yeah, I was pretty broke as I had a big tax payment coming up that I had to make (there is nothing more scary than Swedish tax collectors). My dad was in fact the second board member for Honesty AB after me, not really because he knows the business (he’s a doctor), but because I was legally required to have a second board member and didn’t have anybody else. Today he is no longer on the board and the 100 000 is payed back in full. Anyway, thanks dad!

I then went into surgery, and when I look in my calendar for the weeks that followed it’s full of reminders for when I should take my pain killers (at most 6 Citodon and 1 Voltaren per day).

During that period I wasn’t feeling to hot and only took the most desperately necessary meetings (with the bank for example). On March 2, still with incredible pain in my throat and painkillers in my system, I took up meetings again. That first week I remember meeting with Johan Fredrikzon, Samir Balicevac, David Hägglund, Jens Peter Sjöberg, Simon Sundén, Joakim Friedman (Sportamore) and David Orlic (Volontaire). In the weeks that followed I continued my tour meeting Carl Waldecrantz (Identity Works), Pontus Hymér, Daniel Monsén, Rickard Lundberg (Wisely), Jonas Rutegård (Identity Works), Konrad Bergström (Zound/Urban Ears), Karl Odqvist (Rishworth Aviation), Marcus Ahlm, Magnus Lindkvist, Johan Ronnestam, Saurabh Sinha, Estelle Nordenfalk, Niclas Melin (DDB) and Mattias Hansson (Hyper Island). I can’t remember exactly what we discussed at these different meetings, but I do know that all these amazing people were very supportive of the Honesty idea from the start; something that I am incredibly grateful for. At that time, every little piece of of support was so valuable, and I honestly don’t know if I would have had the strength to go through the tough (and poor) times if it hadn’t been for the support of these people and other’s like them (you know who you are).

Others helped me in other ways, perhaps most notably Henrik Frenne, Fredrik Lundgren and Johan Sjöberg, then at Syrup, who gave me enough freelance work with the “Sweden’s Most Swedish Job” campaign for STF to keep me afloat. Looking back it was perhaps not a ton of money in absolute terms, but in relative terms that cash may well be the most valuable money I have ever made. The three of you should know that you saved my but back then from being forced out of the Honesty project and into a regular day job, and that you are also for that reason forever on my special-thanks-to-list (and let-me-buy-you-a-drink-list) for making Honesty possible. It mattered.

This post is not a post on how to bootstrap an ad agency from scratch, but rather a thanks-to-post to all of you who gave me hope and courage. But there is still one really important lesson to learn from this: Get out and meet people that you respect. Fast. That way you can quickly scan through and test ideas, sharpen your pitch and figure out what your unique angle is. Doing this on your own without bouncing your ideas against somebody smart is way more difficult and takes way more time. Not to mention the moral support that you gather and that you need as fuel to get through the tough times when the inevitable spells of doubt come around. Because they do. For everybody.

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in front of the fire in my apartment with a glass of Zinfandel, listening to Shelter by Ray LaMontagne. The chorus “I will shelter you” marks the perfect ending to post about all the beautiful people that I would like to thank. There are moments in life when it feels like you’re in a movie. This is one of those moments, and this is where the credits roll up. Good night.

About the Blog

This blog is written by Walter Naeslund and has been around since 2007. The blog is about the journey of starting an advertising agency and a sneak peek behind the scenes of what goes on at the Honesty HQ in SoFo, Södermalm. It is also a blog about communication & technology. The blog has gathered almost a thousand posts over the years with several longer and shorter breaks. Welcome and enjoy.
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